My family and I had booked this cruise because it departed out of Tampa which is close to our house in Sarasota. We did not feel like driving to Fort Lauderdale. Carnival also sailed out of Tampa, but we chose Holland America for its reputation for being a bit more high end in terms of service. After checking our bags at the curb at around 1pm, one member of our party parked the car in the long term parking garage across the street. The terminal was empty as it seemed that everyone had already boarded. We went through security, checked-in and boarded in a matter of minutes.
Our cabin, DA561 was an ocean view window cabin. I considered a veranda as this was what I am used to, but the difference in price at the time of booking for three people was more than $1000. We thought we would do fine without the balcony. It worked out since the cabin had excellent ventilation and temperature controls. There was not a sign of prior smoking in our cabin. I was worried that the room would reek of third-hand smoke but was relieved upon entering that the interior smelled completely fresh. I think that despite the fact that HAL allows smoking in cabins, most of the passengers either don't smoke or choose to smoke outside. The cabin had ample closet space for the three of us as well as luggage storage space under the bed. A flat screen TV had a few cable news and sports channels, but sometimes the audio was out of sync with the video due to satellite reception I suppose. An extensive movie DVD list was available in the room. If you want to see a movie, just call and they will deliver the DVD to you. Since the cabin is on deck 5 right below the walk-around on deck 6, you will hear some occaisonal foot steps above you but they are not bothersome. Also, sometimes you can hear talking in the hallway, but only if people are loud, which didn't happen often. If these sounds are enough to bother you at night, they can be easily eliminated by using a pair of earplugs with a NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) of 29. I just put mine in and slept without interruption each night. An added benefit of the cabin that we discovered while boarding: it is literally one cabin away from the Tampa gangway. So once you are ready to leave your room at the conclusion of the cruise, you are off the boat in seconds. My only criticism of the room was that the faucet's water pressure and temperature control. Water flow was very weak making it take a long time to rinse off hands. In addition, there was either extreme hot or extreme cold temperature to the water, no in between. And once you had the water hot and wanted it to go back to cold, it would take a good two minutes for the temp to change.
Our previous cruises were on the Celebrity Summit and Solstice so we were used to the larger ship experience. The ms Ryndam is much smaller with a capacity of about 1200 guests. I thought this would be too small and might not offer the same amenities as a larger ship. But the ms Ryndam did not disappoint. It was a comparable experience in terms of activities, restaurant offerings, fitness/spa facilities, entertainment on-board shopping and a variety of cabin categories. The point is that you are having a similar experience, it is just on a smaller scale. The value for price paid was high and the crew was as professional and passenger oriented as I experienced in my prior cruises. I found that the experience was more intimate as I was able to get to know and remember a lot more of my fellow guests as well as their names.
The Rotterdam Dining Room food was above average. There is one section of the menu that is offered on a daily basis. The other section varies from day to day. Since we were unable to obtain confirmation for early seating, we opted for Holland America's "As You Wish" open seating dining arrangement. Whenever we decided to arrive for dinner, there was never a wait and we were always seated immediately. While you don't get to dine with the same people every night and get to know one waiter, the advantage to open seating is that you get to meet more people as you are at a different table each night. On the first sea day, we opted for the Pinnacle Grill which was higher in quality and presentation. My 7oz filet was cooked perfectly and the wine combination I chose went very well with the meal. We had a seat right next to the window and viewed the sunset as our experience began. It was unforgettable.
The passengers consisted of mostly those in the 60+ age range. There were a few families with children.
Originally, the ship was supposed to call at Key West, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. However, Grand Cayman was cancelled due to poor weather conditions. While it was disappointing, I was impressed that the crew was able to adapt and have adequate activities for the unexpected sea day. An updated program was printed and distributed quickly. The ship was rocking a lot that day due to high winds.
On 1/16, we were scheduled to disembark at 9:30am but due to an announcement at 8:45am, we were advised that all passengers were permitted to leave. We left the ship at 9:05am. At this time, there was a long line for non-US citizens and the US citizen line was empty for us. Our baggage was waiting and after a few quick questions from the customs officer, we left the building. I would say it took 5 minutes from the time we left our room to the time we were at the curb with all our luggage. A very hassle free, fast and efficient disembarkation.
All in all, it was a quality experience. I hope to experience HAL's other ships one day.